There are people in this world who are as big a threat as terrorists – if not even worse.
These people, while claiming to hate violence, also spread fear, hate and intimidation, not realizing that their words or actions causes more or less the same damage as terrorists. They don’t execute people or burn them in cage but they do become, often inadvertently, a part of a far more complex and vicious cycle that usually involves bloodshed of innocent lives.
It perhaps began in December when a lunatic self-style Iranian sheikh killed two people before being shot to death by the police during the Café Lindt siege in Sydney, Australia. Later, as anti-Islam PEGIDA protests in Germany began gaining momentum, two Islamist attackers shouting “Allahu Akbar” shot 12 people dead at the Paris office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, a tragic incident which was followed by a kosher store siege in the same city that resulted in the death of four Jewish citizens. Then to top it all off, there were the Islamic State group’s executions of journalists and gays – as well as the frequent anti-Islam vitriol that was being spewed on television channels such as Fox News. It was a bad time for Muslims who had never been that misunderstood since perhaps the 9/11 attacks.
So it was somewhat less than surprising when some people actually praised Hicks upon hearing that a white, atheist man had allegedly killed three Muslims with execution-style shots to the head.
Someone ever created an entire Facebook page as a tribute to the gunman.
Sure we can dismiss these folks as a bunch of misguided people – which they are, no doubt about that – or bigots who don’t know what they are talking about.
However, what about the people who can’t simply be dismissed as misguided bigots? What about the lawmakers and opinion moulders who exert influence over what the masses think? Where are the liberals, the leftists, the pro-democracy human rights champions, who in one way or another control public opinion?
What happens when they start implying that Muslims – and only Muslims – are and could be potential terrorists, no matter how “western” in nature and outlook they appear?
Read More: What If The Chapel Hill Shooter Was Muslim?
Islamophobia isn't merely random acts of hate commit by people. It's also gov't laws/policies that brand Muslims suspicious & threatening.— Khaled Bey (@KhaledBeydoun) February 18, 2015
Following the Paris terrorist attacks, the one thing more troubling than hate crimes was the way the French government responded with its counter-terrorism “Stop Djihadisme” program. It contained an illustrated guide on how to spot a jihadist. (You can read more about it here.)
To put it briefly, almost all the points included in the document were absurd. Also, it kind of singled out the entire Muslim community as if no one else is capable of being a potential terrorist.
It was Islamophobic, to say the least, and much more threatening to the French Muslim population than individual incidents of reprisal attacks because it was the government – not some idiot with a keyboard using Facebook or a deranged bigot on the street wielding a Molotov cocktail – that released the infographic.
Similarly in the United States, the National Counterterrorism Center reportedly came up with a “rating system” to determine if a family is at risk of turning toward extremism as part of a wider program called Countering Violent Extremism. (You can read more about it here.)
Although the directives stated that Countering Violent Extremism does not target any specific group, the National Counterterrorism Center guide cited examples using Muslim only communities.
At a time when Muslims are already misunderstood and hate crimes are on the rise, these so-called counterterrorism measures will only aggravate the situation for the religious community rather than resolving it.
Now let’s come toward the “liberal” opinion makers.
Let’s take HBO’s Real Time host Bill Maher for example. He believes and has reiterated multiple times on television that extremism and intolerance afflict Muslims at large, and not just "a few bad apples."
Maher is adored by his fan base, which is as diverse as it is huge. That's why his anti-religion and especially anti-Islam rhetoric is more dangerous than, let’s say, Fox News’ Sean Hannity’s xenophobic vitriol.
Oscar-nominated American Sniper, which now ranks as No. 1 war movie at the box office and has surpassed Saving Private Ryan as the highest-grossing war movie of all time, is also an example worth mentioning here.
Mike Essert, deputy news editor of Mic.com, noted how the movie, made by one of the most celebrated Hollywood directors Clint Eastwood, conveyed the wrong message about Muslims and Arabs.
“Most fans seem to be taking the film to be more of a pro-America, pro-war, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab diatribe that gives them free license to assume any brown person is a terrorist who deserves a bullet in the head,” Essert wrote.
Dr. Suzanne Barakat, sister of Chapel Hill shooting victim Deah Barakat, even said in an interview that movies "like American Sniper" dehumanize Muslims.
Abed Ayoub, the legal director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), called the release of American Sniper a major contributor to the rise in anti-Islamic sentiment in the West.
“It may not be directly linked to the film, but the overall way that Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiment are moving in this country is portrayed in the words of those who watched American Sniper,” Ayoub said.
It’s easy to beware of terrorists and xenophobes because they are openly vile. However, it becomes a lot trickier when people who denounce terrorism and violence propagate and endorse discrimination and hatred in way that it looks almost acceptable.